"Notice!!! The East End Memorial Burial Association of Richmond informs the public that having purchased six (6) acres of land, situated in Henrico County . . . they are disposing of the same, in sections, half sections and at the following terms. Sections, $25.00 and Half Sections, $15.00. The situation of this Cemetery is high, dry and rolling and accessible to the Richmond Traction Street Railway and Seven Pines Railway lines, adjoining Oakwood Cemetery."

The Richmond Planet, 8 February 1902

The Richmond Planet, 8 February 1902

Much of what is now East End was originally incorporated as Greenwood Cemetery in 1891 by an association of prominent African Americans. After defaulting, they sold the property back to its original owners for five dollars. A new group of leading lights took over in 1897, when it became East End (though it continued to be known as Greenwood well into the 20th century). Other back-and-forths followed. No arrangements for perpetual care were ever made, so when the community that supported the cemetery began to disperse under the weight of many forces — the attack on African American civil rights and economic power in the wake of Reconstruction; the physical destruction of Jackson Ward; the demise of de jure segregation, which opened burial grounds in the city proper to African Americans — East End deteriorated.

When John Shuck and a small band of volunteers began working at the cemetery in the summer of 2013, it had all but disappeared from view. In the place of an immaculate, formally laid-out burial ground stood a sixteen-acre forest, nearly impenetrable in parts. English ivy, an invasive species, had taken over, climbing the trees and thickening over time, blanketing the thousands of graves so completely that only the tallest headstones peeked through here and there. Some families with loved ones buried at East End had struggled mightily to maintain their plots over the years, carving small islands out of the overgrowth; others could no longer find their way in the tangle of vines.

In the past seven years, volunteers — under the leadership of the Friends of East End — have reclaimed roughly ten acres of cemetery, almost entirely by hand. More than 3,300 grave markers have been uncovered and documented; at least that many unmarked graves have been found. Given the density of burials, we estimate that more than seventeen thousand people are interred at East End, but in the absence of records, we may never know for certain.

A portion of the cemetery covered by ivy.
Tigerlilys in bloom surrounding markers.
Tigerlilys in bloom surrounding markers.
Fallen trees among markers.
Closeup of a faded artificial rose.
landscape view of markers in the fall amid ivy and brown leaves.
wide angle of many people clearing brush in fall or early spring.
paper intact under glass on a rusty courtesy marker.
Large trees overshadowing markers.
The reflection of the trees in the glass of a courtesy marker.
Volunteers clearing brush in a beam of sunlight.
A snowy day wiht flags near veterans' markers.
A snowy day in bright sun with flags near veterans' markers.
A woman pulls vines with the force of her body while a man cuts.
Stacks of illegally dumped tires.
Iillegally dumped tires loaded into a dumpster.
An worker in a cherry picker removes a tree.
A tiny frog on a marker, evening.
Volunteers carrying a large limb.
A marker on the ground, nearly overtaken by ivy.
Goats inside a fence eating brush and leaves.
Volunteers brushing soil off an uncovered marker.
Ledger marker embedded in concrete, recently uncovered.
A man in a red shirt surrounded by green growth stoops to collect brush into a bucket.
Volunteers cutting roots.
Many people clearing brush, including adults and children. Colorful plastic buckets.
Two young women trimming ivy in foreground near a large fallen tree.
Diptych showing before and after clearing around a marker.
A group of people in colorful raingear surrounded by green leaves gathers to hear Erin Hollaway Palmer talk about the cemetery.
Pink flagging tape and green ivy encircling a tree.
A large section of the cemetery covered by kudzu.
Several markers peeking out of recently cleared growth.
Erin Hollaway Palmer clearing brush from a tall monument.
A family plot.
Orange and gold foliage in the cemtery.
Wide evening shot of one marker with an American flag.
A granite marker broken in half at the base of a tree.
A small reset stone at the base of a tree.
A large pile of illegally dumped furniture and mattresses.
Old bottles on the ground.
Volunteers clearing trees with a chainsaw.
A volunteer inserting a soil probe into the earth.
Volunteers carying a limb covered in ivy.
Volunteer cutting a small tree.
Yucca plants in flower with markers in the background.
A tree with orange spray painted writing.
A fallen marker with an American flag nearby.
Four markers for the Isham family.
Springtime, early afternoon. Teacake, a small black dog is in the background. A tall monument is in the foreground.
Early evening light through trees in the cemetery.
A cleard part of the cemetery. Artificial flowers and American flags on markers in the foreground, a dogwood tree blooming in the background.
Closeup of two broken metal courtesy markers on the ground.
Looking down a cleared path in the cemetery.
A marker with an American flag at twilight.
The trees and cemtery blanketed by light snow.
Two small American flags next to several markers.
Trees with orange leaves over a cleared area.
Sun through the trees.
A path meandering through the cemetery.
Heavy undergrowth with a marker visible.
Volunteer wtih tools cutting brush.
Volunteer climbing to pile brush n a dumpster.
Signs with text, "The Four Cemeteries at Evergreen" and "East End Work Day."
Volunteers working in a ravine.